News / Middle East

Corruption Probe Seen as Challenge to Turkish PM's Authority

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses news conference, Ankara, Dec. 18, 2013.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses news conference, Ankara, Dec. 18, 2013.
Dorian Jones
Turkish police have detained at least 49 people in Istanbul and Ankara as part of a high-level corruption probe into alleged bribery connected to public tenders.  The move is being widely interpreted as a challenge to the authority of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Istanbul’s police chief Huseyin Capkin was dismissed Thursday, in the latest fallout from one of Turkey's largest-ever judicial probes into government corruption. The sons of senior ministers, including the Interior Minister, were detained, as were numerous high-level bureaucrats, and dozens of senior police officers have been fired or reassigned. The government claims the officers failed to inform their superiors about the probes. Observers say the investigation is expected to grow, and they predict that prosecutors will call for the parliamentary immunity of the implicated ministers to be rescinded.

Cengiz Aktar of the Istanbul Policy Group think tank says the investigation is one most serious in the country’s history.

"It's revolutionary; nothing of the kind happened in this country before. Of course, corruptions always existed like everywhere in the world. But the scale and the persons involved, indicted - it's unique," said Aktar.

The investigation centers on the alleged laundering of money from Iran to circumvent international sanctions on Tehran, and alleged bribery in the awarding of state contracts for land development.  The Turkish media have broadcast pictures of millions of dollars in cash, found at the home of one of the three sons of government ministers detained, as well as the home of a senior official of the state-owned Halkbank.

But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is taking a robust stand against the investigation, claiming it is part of a conspiracy against his government.  

"There is a very dirty operation here,” Erdoğan said Thursday. "Some circles inside and outside of Turkey are seeking to hinder Turkey from its rapid growth."
 
Observers say the prime minister sees a powerful Islamist movement led by the cleric Fethullah Gulen as being behind the probe. Gulen's followers are widely believed to be influential both in the judiciary and the police.

But Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, denies the accusation. He was once a strong backer of the Islamist-rooted ruling AK Party, particularly in its struggle against the once-dominant army. But tensions have been on the rise in the last 18 months.

Asli Aydintasbas, a political columnist for Turkey’s Milliyet newspaper, says Erdogan will try and use the struggle with Gulen’s supporters to his advantage.
 
"There is no doubt that part of this is the power struggle between the Gulenists and the government. The government’s line will be foreign plot and the Gulenists are working for foreign interests - Israel, US. It's in their interest; Erdogan has always benefited from looking like victim, David and Golia[th]," said Aydintasbas.
 
Observers say the government will be keen to make the judicial investigations be about democracy rather than corruption. But analyst Aktar says if the allegations stick, the consequences for the AK Party could be severe.

"The constituency of the ruling party is composed mainly of destitute masses, and the sums involved mentioned in the press, millions and billions, that might have indeed a quite negative effect on the AK, which is preparing for the next round of elections 2014 and 2015," said Aktar.

Turkey is heading into an 18-month election cycle, with crucial local elections in March, followed by presidential elections in which Erdoğan is widely expected to run and a general election in 2015. The anti-corruption probe could not come at a worse time for the government, and many of its supporters insist this is not a coincidence. Observers say how successful the government is in convincing the country that the probe is more a conspiracy than a corruption investigation could determine the outcome of the upcoming elections.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid